Winter 2014 Newsletter
25th Anniversary Exhibition Year: What Shape is Out There?

Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) #2

A choreographed collaboration between:

Maggie Flynn, Ame Henderson, Jp King, and Terrarea (Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg, Olia Mishchenko)

With special projects by The M.A.D Poet (aka Melissa A. Dean) and Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart

6 January – 2 March 2014

Opening Reception: Wednesday, February 5, 6 – 9 pm

Orchestrated by Emelie Chhangur, Suzanne Carte, Michael Maranda, and Allyson Adley

Score making, seam clashing, position and movement: welcome to the second edition of the Centre For Incidental Activisms (CIA #2). While the focus of this series has evolved, the basic premise of what this ongoing project aims to do — and undo — remains similar. Both CIAs set out to performatively examine a question at stake in contemporary artistic and curatorial practice. In winter 2011, instead of creating an exhibition about politically engaged and activist practices, the CIA inaugurated a “centre” through which to enact politics and embrace activism as a transformative practice. Similarly, in 2014, CIA #2 continues to encourage disagreement, incoherence, uncertainty, and unpredictable offshoots, this time through a series of improvised situations that set in motion relations between people, ideas, and spaces where the brokering of different viewpoints, perspectives, and forms of artistic production is a central part of the work undertaken.

This time it is the role of collaboration across disciplines, not activism within an institutional framework, that propels our inquiry — though the former certainly still has bearing on the latter. Here, we seek to engage in speculative imagination, to nurture collaborative aesthetics, to facilitate precarious relations, and to explore oblique topographies through hands-on, process-based artistic research across disciplines and geographies: from writing and poetry, to choreography and dance, to architecture and urban planning, to visual art and social practice, while bringing together members of the downtown Toronto art community and members of the Jane-Finch community. Here our performative inquiry is a political action where we collectively determine what this project might become over the course of its duration. Through the process we aspire to create some sort of shared terminology that opens up the potential for collaborative work in-between the disciplines and individuals we bring together. This project is more akin to the creation of a score than an exhibition.

Inherently experimental, the CIA is a public manifestation of our desire to position “in-reach” at the core of our institutional practice. By bringing new forms of expression and different cultural practices and protocols into the institution, our “in-reach” projects are designed to open up the institution, to follow paths into new territories with unexpected outcomes, and to transform the institution from within by allowing differing forms of cultural production to infiltrate the working methodologies of contemporary curatorial practice. At the AGYU, we called this “infrastructural activism.” For this iteration of the CIA, we align our many activities into one form, everything from publishing, to exhibition making, education, and public programming: a shared terminology and self-organizing energy that draws inspiration from the multifarious activities and influences each artist brings to this project, activities and influences that we, in turn, bring into the gallery through our collaboration with them.

For the inaugural CIA, the only object we (the curators) introduced to the space was a large, custom-designed table, which we situated in the middle of the gallery. The table operated in both functional and metaphorical terms. It was an organizational device that acted as a site and a meeting place, and highlighted the questions the project itself sought to propose, such as: “who’s sitting at the table; who’s stepping up to the table.” It also acted as a platform for different kinds of activities — from talks, to workshops, to dinners, to classes professors conducted in the space, to being a stage for spoken word events and performances — and, in the end, through Public Studio’s intervention, the symbolic destruction of the idea of the “gallery” and the project’s very concept itself by cutting the table into pieces and rearranging it throughout the space. So what to expect this time …

For CIA #2, we take over the entire space of AGYU, splitting it into three distinct spaces in order to bring them back together. To the first, we have brought a custom-designed ten-foot-diameter rotating table. Low to the ground, it grounds the space as one of interaction and exchange. The next space, dimly lit and sound-baffled, is defined by a matching eight-station, off-centre library carrel: the atmosphere is contemplative and retrospective. The final space, at first, is open-ended, containing nothing but potential (although it is filled soon enough).

Returning, then, to the first space: the rotating table will be hard to miss. Surrounding it, though, are various accoutrements of the project: an ephemeral print-shop for printing ephemera; an array of objects in various stages of posturing and posing; notice boards and notices, administrative or otherwise. Oh, and, on occasion, bodies. This is the active room, the space for workshopping, display, creation, play, and production. Here, scores are realized. Performances enacted. Ephemera concretized. In this space, all the various components drawn from a collective “bin of stuff” come in to play as a cacophony of the collaborative.

While first on the viewer’s itinerary, this first space is not autonomous. The scores come from somewhere, the ephemera sourced from something. Step into the “open source” library, then, a contemplative space built for distribution, for reading, for meditation, reflection, and introspection. It’s a public space for that which all too often only happens in private: a presentation of research-in-action. An attempt at making visible the invisible work that constitutes a practice.

The third space, as we’ve mentioned, starts empty. It’s already full, though. Reserved for If We Ruled the World, it’s gradually filled with the material created by Success Beyond Limits participants [see below]. Once the evidence of applied collaborative research is present, it also becomes t the raw material for further investigation into the urban spaces of Jane and Finch, both symbolic and real. Making a laboratory for re-envisioning the urban landscape.

All these spaces—the active, the contemplative, and the laboratory—allow people and things to unite and work together in real-time that is both synchronous and asynchronous. They are a forum for discussion and collaboration at various levels of engagement. They are platforms for the dissemination of issues and ideas that come out of the concept of communal authorship as articulated in the cycle of exhibition activisms/activisms of exhibition.

We hope that CIA #2 is another experimental learning opportunity for the artists and the AGYU. Entering into a collaborative situation without knowing how it will work (or not) means that we seek to perform what the project sets out to do: to create a space of negotiation, compromise, flux, and subversion – feeling our way through the project and letting it take us in new directions, establishing new relationships, and developing new working methodologies by testing what works and what doesn’t. Experimenting this way is not intended as an isolated event with a determined beginning and end but rather a sustained engagement or ephemeral social activity with lasting impact. It is about learning through what these projects teach us so that we may put these less tangible things into practice, hoping that the CIA project changes the nature of our own practices and opens up the possibility for new kinds of collaboration in the future.

Maggie Flynn is an organizer, artist, and curator. Her understanding of critical pedagogy and community organizing has been shaped by her involvement with groups such as the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, the Really Really Free Market, Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (El Salvador), and the Anarchist Free University. She is the Director of Whippersnapper Gallery.

Ame Henderson grew up on Vancouver Island and now lives in Toronto where she is Artistic Director of Public Recordings, an atelier for choreographic experimentation. Henderson holds an MFA from the Amsterdam School for the Arts, where her research focused on the political implications of the synchronous gesture and its potential as a collaboratively authored improvisatory practice of togetherness.

Jp King is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and publisher. His collaborative and independent practice emphasizes garbage, material culture, contemporary mythology, masculinity, and primitive futures. Utilizing collage techniques, his obsessions with print and paper manifest in multiple forms, and his writing and images have been exhibited and published internationally. King operates the experimental publishing studio Paper Pusher.

Terrarea observe a manner of seeing and sharing that first arrived through an infinity box, and has since grown through friendship and chance. Terrarea prefer a variable and evolving approach—a responsive means of handling matter and coping with impulses. We learn together: Things look smaller from a distance, and multiply easily. Relationships are unfixed. Reflection is useful. Matter can get out of hand. Flexibility is key. Terrarea is Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg, and Olia Mishchenko.

With this exhibition, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ontario Arts Council. We acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), an agency of the Government of Ontario, which last year funded 1,681 individual artists and 1,125 organizations in 216 communities across Ontario for a total of $52.8 million.

If We Ruled the World

In a Monday morning meeting, downtown…
White suits in a white room conceive failure,
draft dead-end plans, and map out patterns of early social misbehavior. Luckily, colorful thoughts arrive just in time
to overthrow the secret meeting and free young minds.
The world is mine!

— Black by Design: An Urban Planning Intervention

By The M.A.D. Poet

In a world increasingly marked by economic polarization and a widening gap between rich and poor, it is imperative for youth to mobilize and collectively challenge and destabilize patterns of residential segregation, locational discrimination, and spatial practices that contribute to social, economic, and political marginalization.

Led by The M.A.D. Poet (aka Melissa A. Dean) and Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart, If We Ruled the World, is a multidisciplinary art program for Jane-Finch youth that focuses on urban planning and spatial justice. Engaging fifteen youth from Success Beyond Limits, an educational support and mentorship program housed at Westview Centennial Secondary School, this program invites youth to investigate how visual art and spoken word poetry can be employed to hone and develop a critical spatial consciousness. Through workshops in Jane-Finch, Stoddart and Dean encourage and support youth as they collectively develop, cultivate, and draw from their own urban spatial imaginary.

Youth employ visual art and spoken word poetry as expressive tools to imagine urban design alternatives that promote community well-being, health, and belonging. Recognizing and identifying the structures of oppression that manifest spatially in the built environment and urban landscape, youth also produce alternative neighbourhood plans, founded upon the principles and ethics of spatial justice.

With the guidance of documentary filmmaker Chevy X King, participants create place-based spoken word poetry videos, shot on location at various neighbourhood sites throughout the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Through their participation youth realize how art can be strategically deployed for empowerment, enabling them to create an equitable and inclusive urban spatial imaginary and reality.

These place-based artworks, poetry, and videos together form a critical body of youth-generated, arts-based research and documentation that shapes and informs their investigation into urban transformation. Collaborating in a two-day charrette at the CIA with Zahra Ebrahim and Sherry Lin of archiTEXT, a Toronto-based design think tank and creative agency, youth participate in a brainstorming exercise where they conceive of new urban design possibilities, as well as explore the potential urban transformation of the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. The second day focuses on the redesign of Success Beyond Limits educational and programming space.

The M.A.D. Poet (aka Melissa A. Dean) is a spoken word artist and community arts educator who grew up in the Jane-Finch community. She is pursuing a Masters of Environmental Studies in Urban Planning at York University.

Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart is an acclaimed Toronto painter and arts educator. Stoddart has exhibited his work in numerous exhibitions including Manifesto’s Sacred Seven Exhibition and has work on permanent display in the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre.

Born in Castries, Saint Lucia, Chevy X King is working on his first feature-length documentary entitled From Slaveships to Relationships: Narratives of Healing. Chevy is also a graduate student in the Masters of Humanities program at York University.

Get on the Performance Bus!

A father, his bus, and his son. (via Cat Stevens)

Father:

It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know…
I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Son:

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Wayne and Derek Liddington—father and son—share a sentimental journey with riders on The Performance Bus. Through a combination of experienced and inexperienced memory, Derek, a Toronto-based artist and Wayne, a Mississauga Transit driver, reenact one of the most important moments of sharing and learning between a father and son: learning how to drive. Only now the stakes are increased (and so is the size of the vehicle). Using The Performance Bus as a context and as a prop, they tenderly explore this historic moment of exchange and coming of age experience as a public conversation that has wider implications concerning pedagogy, participation, and performance.

The free Performance Bus departs OCADU on Wednesday February 5 at 6 pm sharp en route to the opening reception of the Centre For Incidental Activisms #2 (CIA#2) at AGYU and returns downtown at 9 pm.

Derek Liddington works and lives in Toronto. He obtained his MFA from the University of Western Ontario and BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Liddington’s work has also been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, most recently at Art Gallery Mississauga, Art Berlin Contemporary, Onagawa AIR, Japan, and at Daniel Faria Gallery, where he is represented. In 2011, Derek Liddington was shortlisted for the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist Prize.

AGYU’s 2014-15 Artists-in-Residence

Working with local and international artists over long periods of time, AGYU’s residencies have been a core part of the gallery’s programming since 2005 when we coined our Out There slogan while being in-residence ourselves at Drake AIR. These residencies have a major impact on how we conceive our programming, develop new curatorial methodologies, sustain long-term relationships with artists, and creatively transform our institutional practices from within by learning how to respond socially and situationally to the challenges that each new residency brings.

January 2013-March 2014: Camilla Singh

Yes, you read correctly. January 2013 is when it all started. And Camilla is still here! In case you haven’t heard, Camilla is having a major solo exhibition at AGYU in Spring 2014 entitled Uniforms for Non-Uniform Work (April 2 – June 15, 2014).  But like most things AGYU and most things Camilla Singh, the exhibition is anything but straightforward, anything but uniform. And it has been a lot of work! (The nature of which, of course, is one of the artist’s main thematic investigations.) So, it goes without saying that the process and lead-up to this show is as complex as the work that will comprise it.

In 2013, the AGYU and the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University teamed up to bring Camilla Singh to York University as the Visiting Artist In Sculpture under the guidance of AGYU’s Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur and Faculty of Fine Arts Professor Brandon Vickerd.

During the ongoing 14-month residency, Camilla has given talks, attended advanced technical demonstrations, and had the opportunity to experiment with new materials and ways of working as she develops this brand new body of work. Camilla has engaged with students in discussions about putting a practice into form: exploring the curatorial considerations of art making and the artistic processes undertaken by curators, especially as they pertain to the application of sculpture to exhibition design, which is intrinsically linked to the show’s thematic. And then she’s gone and done just that: put the idea of curating into form, uniforms to be exact.

Camilla’s studio, located in the sculpture area, has been the hub of production and the site of inspiration for everyone else working around her, including us at AGYU. Her project marks the first large-scale production collaboration between AGYU and the Sculpture Area.

As part of the conceptual premise of this exhibition, Camilla is developing groundbreaking ways of working with patrons and sponsors.

Camilla’s multi-faceted project is curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. Camilla Singh is represented by De Luca Fine Art.

January 2014: Marlon Griffith

Artist Talk: Monday February 3, 7 pm
@ The Theatre Centre Pop-Up,

1095 Queen St. West, Toronto

AGYU embarks on another long-term collaborative project, this time with Trinidad-born, Japan-based artist Marlon Griffith. Marlon is in Toronto from January 24 – February 7, 2014, for his first site visit in preparation for a series of residencies over the next two years to develop a new, large-scale street procession in summer 2015 and in fall 2015, a solo exhibition at AGYU.

Beginning his career as a ‘Mas’ man for Carnival, Marlon’s current work derives its form (and to an extent its process) from the performative, participatory, and ephemeral characteristics that derive from Carnival. Griffith’s work is based upon a reciprocal dialogue between ‘Mas’ (the artistic component of the Trinidad Carnival) and contemporary art as a means of investigating the phenomenological aspect of the embodied experience, while interrogating contemporary visual culture outside the traditional pitfalls of representation. Often taking the form of processions, Marlon’s performative actions are stripped down to their basic form and abstracted to create new images and narratives that respond critically and poetically to our socio-cultural environment.

Recent projects include new commissions for 7th Gwangju Biennale (GwangjuSouth Korea, 2008), CAPE 09 (Cape Town, South Africa, 2009), Manifesta 9 Parallel Projects (Hasselt, Belgium, 2012), and Aichi Triennale (Nagoya, Japan, 2013).

Marlon Griffith’s project is curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur.

February 2014: Heather Cassils

AGYU welcomes in L.A.-based artist, stunt person, and body builder, Heather Cassils for a research residency at AGYU is in preparation for the Fall 2014 launch of Creative Campaigning: Performance as Resistance. The upcoming performance series, Creative Campaigning, commissions work from artists in collaboration with student groups to further articulate their vision and message. It strives to activate participation campus-wide on sociopolitical issues, educational concerns, and the promotion of equality while generating opportunities for critical engagement on campus. The inaugural artist of the program, Cassils is dedicated to creating a platform for discursive, experimental, and performative education. Utilizing the university grounds as a site for cultural production, his physically demanding and activist-based performance methodologies work to infiltrate public spaces thereby creating a place to vocalize concerns and activate movement with the students as equal partners and collaborators. The residency has been made possible with the collaboration of the 35th Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times, Trinity Square Video, and Pleasure Dome.

Creative Campaigning is curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte.

Happy 25th AGYU !!

We’ve been so preoccupied we almost forgot. We’re twenty-five years old! It’s been that long since the AGYU transformed itself from a departmental to an independent public gallery, with its first exhibition opening March 1989. Pay attention this year as we continue to transform ourselves again!

AGYU Vitrines

Jade Rude is sending out a secret message and only you can decipher the code. The hidden note can be decoded from linking the AGYU Vitrines to her Project 674 (3rd Floor, 674 Queen Street West).  Crosswords across the city, reading from one window to the other, cryptic text covertly implies that where you are is potentially not where it is.

Through a variety of perception-shifting tactics Jade Rude disrupts our familiar responses to objects and in doing so forces a re-consideration of our relationship to the material world. Rude is a Toronto-based artist who creates works that exist in the liminal space between art and design, while employing perception-shifting tactics to playfully examine the relationship between reality and representation. Rude studied social theory in Norway, art and design in England, and graduated from the Alberta College of Art.

Audio Out

Is it a dog? Is it a plane? No (and yes), it’s Bill Burns’ Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Choir on the speaker at AGYU! Our Audio Out listening post features a choral work Burns developed in collaboration with 8-to 12-year-old students in Toronto about agency, pedigree, global capital, and travel. Originally produced as a four channel audio project for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche (2011), Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Choir was recorded at 6 Nassau Studio as a production of Big Pond Small Fish Art Productions with assistance from Choral Director Alan Gasser, Sound Editor Andrew Zukerman, Associate Producer Krys Verrall, and Project Manager Sheetal Lodhia.

Waging Culture

The numbers are in. From July through December, artists across Canada dutifully filled out the online survey for the Waging Culture survey. We’d really like to thank all those who were invited to participate; we truly, madly, deeply appreciate the time you took out of your busy days (and we can with confidence, statistically speaking, let you know that artists in Canada have busy busy days. More on this later).

Now, the number crunching begins. For the next little while, we’ll be compiling and comparing, adding and dividing, charting and graphing. Unlike the 2007 survey, we won’t release the results in one fell swoop. Instead, we will issue a series of reports picking up key themes. Interested in being the first to know? Follow Waging Culture on twitter: @wagingculture. http:/www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/wagingculture

ABOTM

Anticipation is building, the bookshelves are filling.

The fourth installment of the AGYU Artists’ Book of the Moment has come. At present, all the submissions are on display in the lobby of the AGYU (and, of course, on the website as well). Stay tuned as the jury is still out. On Friday, February 14th, at 3PM (Eastern Time Zone), the big announcement is made (get it, we <3 artists’ books), the final determination announced, and the one title that has risen to the top of the ABotM revealed. http:/www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/abotm

Contemporary Art Bus

Sunday, 19 January 2013, 12 – 5 PM | FREE

Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts at Artscape Young Place (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Blackwood Gallery and AGYU returning to Shaw Street at 5 pm. Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Friday January 17 to Valentine Moreno at vmoreno@kofflerarts.org or 416.638.1881 x 4249.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Spring 2014: Camilla Singh Uniforms for Non Uniform Work

Fall 2014: Is Toronto Burning?

1977 | 1978 | 1979: Three Years in the Making of the Toronto Art Scene

Reports

OAAG Awards!

Finally, finally Allyson Adley has been recognized for her outstanding and innovative education programs in the Jane-Finch community, where she singlehandedly has given us street cred. She was honoured with this year’s Ontario Association of Art Galleries Education Award for Chronicles of the Outspoken: A Multidisciplinary Art Program for Success Beyond Limits youth. Congratulations to all involved. (We thought her past programs Architecture of the Imagination (2008) and Ladies First (2009) deserved awards too!) Barr Gilmore won the major Art Book Design Award for Glamour Is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea 1969-1978. Well deserved congratulations as well!

OHRNI @ AGYU

On November 21 the AGYU in partnership with the Centre for Feminist Research at YorkU presented Ohrni, the concluding preview of artist and academic Andil Gosine’s Wardrobes, a work that explores the intimate legacies of indentureship. Gosine and Gaiutra Bahadur, author of the acclaimed new book Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture led a two-hour discussion about labour, sex, and home.

The Performance Bus goes on tour!

The AGYU’s Performance Bus has officially become the preferred way to travel to all art spaces “out there.” On October 12, 2013, the AGYU, the Varley Art Gallery, the Markham Museum, and York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts at York University co-presented an iteration of the AGYU’s legendary Performance Bus, curated by Britt Gallpen (MA candidate in Art History), featuring Toronto artist Vanessa Dion Fletcher. Vanessa created a powerful performance entitled Past Tense / Future Present that related listening to the ancestors with familial hearing loss, and served birch tea to people on the bus.

ACE Student Internship

AGYU welcomes José Melara, a grade 12 student from Emery Collegiate Institute on an Advanced Credit Experience Co-op placement. An emerging visual artist, José is using the internship as an opportunity to create drawings and poetry about the Weston and Wilson neighbourhood where he lives.

The AGYU Writing Award: Smart Cash for Good Writing:

The annual AGYU Writing Award acknowledges excellence in two categories: review ($150 award) and a thematic article ($200 award) based on any of the exhibitions held at the AGYU over the course of the academic year. Ashley Mitrakos’ thematic essay successfully tackled the difficult images positioned in Deanna Bowen’s exhibition. The review award went to Natasha Chaykowski for her adept reading of Sara Angelucci’s capricious hybrids in Provenance Unknown. You can find them both on the AGYU website. The next deadline is April 25, 2014 for an essay or review of AGYU’s exhibitions: Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Crusades, Centre for Incidental Activisms # 2, Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House, or Camilla Singh’s Uniforms for Non Uniform Work.

Publications

Now available: the long awaited Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic has finally made it from the printer to our shelves. A jam-packed 176 pages of full colour glory, 300 plus illustrations. With texts by Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk, Luis Jacob, Bruce LaBruce, and Leila Pourtavaf, a full listing documenting the Vazaleen club nights, and of course as much of Will Munro’s artwork and posters as we could find. Design courtesy of Lisa Kiss Design.